Hearteningly, one sure method of making the perennially prickly Lou Reed drop the basilisk stare and dispense the milk of human kindness is to raise the subject of Maureen Tucker. The woman he lovingly describes as “an American icon” was, of course, the primal, substratal drummer with The Velvet Underground – and remains to this day the only tub-thumper who can play I’m Waiting For The Man properly.
The first Velvets album arguably invented lo-fi and, as the I Feel So Far Away anthology attests, Tucker was unafraid to run with that particular ball when she returned to music after a slow eternity of motherhood and low-paid labour. Playing all the instruments herself on 1982’s home-recorded Playin’ Possum, Tucker effectively erected an edifice of outsider art. Her version of Bo Diddley is like listening to someone scouring pans 10 yards away, while Heroin is tackled like a cave painting in crayon.
A unique combination of businesslike stoicism and vaporous vulnerability, Tucker attracted eager contributions from fellow primo primitives in subsequent years, not least Jonathan Richman (taking the Reed role on a lovely version of I’m Sticking With You), Sonic Youth, Jad Fair and, on 1991’s I’m Not (from the same year’s I Spent A Week There The Other Night LP), the classic VU line-up in their last studio recording.